Sunday, March 13, 2011

[In His Time: The Films of Edward Yang] Farewell Edward Yang (再见,杨德昌) / Yi Yi – One on One with Edward Yang (一时无两:一一现场实录) (World Premiere)

This morning's retrospective screening welcomes two documentaries which paint completely different pictures of Edward Yang, and they make great companion pieces because one gives the viewer a glimpse of Edward Yang through the eyes of his collaborators, from cast and crew alike, while the other allows you to form your own opinion, and see first hand the director in action, which is extremely rare. I suppose any Edward Yang film retrospect will have to come complete with the second film screened today, after all, today is its world premiere, and provides some wonderful insights as told by the late director himself.

Farewell Edward Yang by Hsiao Chu-Chen is a documentary that rounds up past collaborators of the director's to talk about personal anecdotes in which they fondly remember the director by, and for those who have read through the wonderful interviews and articles in the festival booklet, the talking head interviews here provide additional material in which to understand the director's work ethics, and frankly, a lot of the cast from Sylvia Chang (a pity the subtitle introduced someone else!) to Chang Chen all recalled how strict it can all be on set, while to cast members, it's usually a portrait painted on how Edward Yang revolutionized the Taiwan film industry, as well as the constant struggle for funding, and the overcoming of various challenges presented in filmmaking then.

There's even a rare clip of a television interview between Edward Yang and Hsiao Yeh talking about the making of That Day, on the Beach, and clips from the unfinished animated film The Wind ((追风) that Edward Yang was working on.

But I kid you not if I say most of the audience were waiting with bated breaths for the world premiere of Yi Yi – One on One with Edward Yang (一时无两:一一现场实录), directed by James Leong many years ago on the set of Yi Yi, where he was fortunate enough to get on it because of a personal favour Edward Yang had given to James' dad Leong Po-Chih. His first foray into filmmaking, and a documentary one at that, James puts the camera on Edward as the latter went about the making of Yi Yi, and certainly this treasure trove edited from James Leong's archives allowed many glimpses of the director in action, which is probably never seen before.

In between working on sets, quick interviews also got conducted with the director who shares his philosophies in both filmmaking and life, and shows first hand the diligence and detail that went on set which included various crew members in picking out children for Yi Yi's school scenes. If it's anything to go by, your impression of Yang being quite authoritarian and demanding, from articles in the festival booklet and the earlier documentary, will get thrown out the window as this film paints him in a very different light altogether, as a genius of a director who's at ease with himself, quite affable and very effectively bilingual.

I only hope there may be a longer cut in time to come, and this should be a staple now for any Edward Yang Film Retrospective, which fans of the filmmaker will very much welcome.


A post screening dialogue was conducted with the father and son team of Leong Po-Chih, a renowned filmmaker in his own right and James Leong of LIANAIN Films and director of Yi Yi – One on One with Edward Yang, moderated by Maggie Lee, and you can view most of the excerpts from the session in the video clips below:

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

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